The Girl That Loved to Review returns to the Marvel Blogathon with a review of X-Men: First Class, the fifth X-Men film and a prequel to the original trilogy.
X-Men: First Class (2011)
This may be incredibly unbelievable to some of you, but I have never seen any of the movies in the X-Men trilogy. Never. The only one I had seen before First Class was X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It’s very weird when I think about it because I loved the animated X-Men cartoon show as a kid. So basically when I saw X-Men: First Class I was viewing it with fresh eyes. I knew generally about the most famous X-Men characters, but that was about it.
What drew me to the theater to see First Class it’s opening weekend, despite not being a big X-Men fan, was the combination of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. These are two of the best actors of their generation and they elevate the X-Men franchise to new heights. They may not be big box office names outside the X-Men movies, but they are integral to the success of First Class and why I love it so much. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender have intense chemistry. They are so much fun to watch bounce off each other. I would say First Class is one of the best comic book films ever made. It is very fun and light, but it also tackles some heavy issues.
James McAvoy first won me over in Wanted. I was lured into the theater to see Angelina Jolie, but came out raving about James instead. His work in First Class is phenomenal. He brings a lot of humor to the film, especially in the first half. I get so much joy out of seeing Xavier hitting on college co-eds and guzzling down beer. And the way he says “groovy” is just, well…groovy. I think James humanizes Xavier quite a bit. Xavier is not all knowing and wise. He’s still a young guy figuring things out. But he is also firm in his beliefs and his desire to help other mutants.
Michael Fassbender blew me away previously as Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre. He was so sexy and smoldering. A man tormented by his inner demons and life that had been thrust upon him. Viewed through that kind of lens, Erik/Magneto is very much the same. Only in First Class it’s more like “You killed my mother, prepare to die!”
Any Princess Bride fans? What am I saying, everyone’s a Princess Bride fan. Anyways, Michael has the showier part than James. He even gets all the cool music! He makes Magneto so badass. First Class seems like one long audition to be the next James Bond. I’d watch that. While Xavier lightens the film, Magneto darkens it. He’s a pessimist basically. Michael’s charisma is incredible. I love near the end when Magneto floats out with Shaw’s body before him. He resembles a god. Throughout the movie I was blown away by him.
Okay, enough McFassy love, now let’s delve into some of the things about the film that don’t work. There are enough of them to keep this from being a truly amazing film. My biggest problem is Jennifer Lawrence and how Mystique is handled. Jennifer is fine when she is the human version of Mystique. But when she is blue skinned and yellow eyed… I don’t find her believable. Jennifer seems uncomfortable in Mystique’s skin. But when I think about it, maybe that’s the genius of her performance. Since Raven/Mystique can’t accept herself as she is. I wish she had more to do other than mope around about her appearance. I would have preferred someone older in the part though, someone more equal to James and Michael. The age thing isn’t a huge problem in First Class, but it becomes more prominent, for me anyways, in Days of Future Past.
Then there is January Jones as Emma Frost. Most of the other actors are amazing, bringing so much energy to the film. Then there’s January with all the personality of a limp fish. It almost works sometimes, since Emma is a ‘cold’ character. But more often I found myself laughing at how ridiculous she looks and her monotone delivery. And the diamond special effects on her skin looked absolutely terrible. It was horrendous. Rose Byrne is a better actress, but I hate her character. She’s basically useless except for paralyzing Xavier (well, Magneto did it too but…). And the romance between the two is even more useless.
Other highlights are Kevin Bacon as Shaw, the villain. He is convincing and it looks like he had a lot of fun with it. Nicholas Hoult is quite good as Beast. When he’s big and blue he looks like a cute teddy bear.
I love X-Men: First Class. Instead of focusing on huge fight scenes and special effects, Matthew Vaughn focuses on the characters and their relationships with one another. I find it incredibly interesting and fascinating. The way Magneto and Xavier love andneed each other, yet are torn apart by their very different beliefs. And how Mystique has a different relationship with each of the two men. My love for this film is why I was disappointed with Days of Future Past. I liked DOFP, but it’s basically the Wolverine show with an emphasis on action sequences. Where were my McFassy scenes? They were so few. And there were even fewer between the older and younger Xaviers and Magnetos. I feel that First Class was a great opportunity to reboot the franchise that was then undermined by DOFP.
My rating for X-Men: First Class: 8/10
X-Men: First Class reboots the X-Men series so that it can continue to survive after Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan retire. And it is quite successful in this endeavor. It is a very strong first entry into this second phase of the X-Men cinematic franchise. The actors are all quite talented and bring depth to a series that could otherwise be quite superficial. I much prefer Matthew Vaughn’s direction to Bryan Singer’s. But Singer is still a more than capable director. I’m looking forward to X-Men: Apocalypse as I hope it focuses once again on the relationship between Magneto and Professor X, something DOFP lacks. I’d also like to see some of the humor from First Class brought back as I felt DOFP was too serious, another thing that Matthew Vaughn brought to the franchise. X-Men: First Class succeeds in building the foundations of really interesting relationships between its characters and it will be great to see that explored again in Apocalypse.